If your company is looking for a food-grade third-party logistics (3PL) provider, there’s a lot of vetting required to make sure it can protect the integrity of your products. From the size and cleanliness of the warehouse to the safety and procedural knowledge of employees, there are many telltale signs that distinguish the best food-grade 3PLs from the rest of the pack. One of the most important of these signs is AIB certification, which shows that a provider truly walks the walk when it comes to food product safety.
What is AIB certification?
“AIB” is short for the American Institute of Baking, AIB International, which was founded in 1919. Now known as AIB International, AIB has become one of the world’s foremost providers of training and certification programs related to food safety, quality management, process optimization, and avoidance of recalls.
AIB’s “Consolidated Standards for Inspection” represent requirements that a food-grade facility such as a warehouse must meet to keep food products safe. A brief description of the Standards is as follows.
- Operational Methods and Personnel Practices – requirements related to the receipt, storage, monitoring, handling, and processing of raw materials for manufacturing or distribution.
- Maintenance for Food Safety – requirements related to management and maintenance of equipment, buildings and grounds.
- Cleaning Practices – requirements related to cleaning and sanitation of equipment, utensils and buildings.
- Integrated Pest Management – requirements related to pest control and prevention.
- Adequacy of Prerequisite and Food Safety Programs – requirements related to management and teamwork to ensure that food-safety-related programs are properly designed and then implemented by all members of a facility.
Each of these categories is worth 200 points for scoring during the AIB audit process, creating a total of 1,000 possible points. Facilities (e.g., warehouses) that reach at least 700 points “pass” the audit. Facilities that score in the top 25% within their business category are awarded a “Recognition of High Achievement – Superior.”
AIB audits are conducted annually. audit process typically takes 1-2 full days and covers every aspect of warehousing operations, from procedure and paperwork review to detailed reviews of equipment and facility conditions. This relatively intense process – along with the associated price tag – keeps many companies from going through with it.
Why does it matter if your 3PL has AIB certification?
While all facilities must comply with federal, state, and local regulations (e.g., those associated with the Food Safety and Modernization Act), requirements associated with AIB certification go above and beyond these regulations. AIB requirements challenge facilities to truly optimize operations and create the safest possible environment for food products, not just one that checks boxes associated with laws.
AIB certification – as well as certification from ASI or a few other highly-regarded competitors of AIB – therefore shows that a 3PL truly walks the walk when it comes to keeping food products safe as they travel through the supply chain. With such an intensive audit and certification process, only the companies that have full confidence in their abilities will invite such an audit.
Another thing that AIB certification shows is that the 3PL is process driven. AIB certification focuses on sustainable, repeatable processes that are not dependent on specific people, but rather are built into all roles and procedures within the company. Such a process-driven approach ensures that every action taken inside the logistics warehouse is performed in accordance with food safety best practices.
Certification also shows that your 3PL is “recall ready.” As part of the audit, the 3PL will need to conduct a mock recall on the spot (e.g., using its warehouse management system to identify specific items by lot code or expiration date, and then segregate those products safely). Companies that are AIB-certified have thus proven the ability to handle recalls for your business should one occur.
What else to look for in an AIB-certified 3PL provider
The best food product 3PL providers don’t wait for a once-a-year audit from AIB International to make sure their operations are buttoned up – they audit themselves. At Weber Logistics, for example, we have a dedicated compliance team that performs quarterly audits of our operations that are every bit as stringent as the AIB audit. When the AIB audit does roll around, it’s business as usual for us as we know we already comply with the most exacting standards in the industry: our own.
For more information on what you should look for in a 3PL that handles food products, check out our article: “5 Things to Look for in a Food Warehousing Provider.” And, to learn how a 3PL with a “Superior” rating at all its food-grade facilities can support your business, contact Weber Logistics today.